Tutorial on How to Make Polymer Clay Goddess Beads

2 inch tall polymer clay Goddess beads by Karen A. Scofield

2″ tall Goddess beads by Karen A. Scofield. Artist grade polymer clay. Tutorial.

Why I Made the Tutorial

Hi, I’m the artist, Karen A. Scofield and I live in Kenosha, WI. I made this tutorial after finding hundreds, if not thousands, of Pinterest pins showing my work. They linked to a blog that used my pictures and strongly inferred that one can made these with the kids out of a homemade cornstarch and baking soda clay. That’s an unauthorized use of my work and I find it misleading on several counts.

My Youtube Video After the Discovery: http://youtu.be/Md9Y_o0jM2g

My beads shown above are on my sari0009 flickr and appear in the blurb book Polymer Artists Showcase, by Tejae Floyde. (Tejae Floyde has a wonderful site and blog and has her work published in numerous magazines and books.) They’re about 2″ tall and I used artist grade polymer clay to make them (more on that in a moment).  They’re colored with mica powders, then sealed.

Karen A. Scofield’s Polymer Clay Goddess Tutorial

Note: This tutorial assumes that you have some basic knowledge of polymer clay but also includes information and links that can assist and inspire you. I do that for the people who may not know a lot about polymer clay but apply themselves to the task well enough anyway. Cheers to you! If you have enough of a background in polymer clay, you can probably follow along by mostly just reading the bolded font description of each step.

Throughout the following tutorial, you can refer to the Glass Attic Online Polymer Clay Encyclopedia, if you have any further questions. It’s a most excellent and exhaustive resource.

This is an intermediate to advanced project and is not suitable for children. I know I wouldn’t attempt it with children and maybe not even most older teens. It involves clay residue, an X-Acto Knife, knitting needles and/or clay tools, mica powders you don’t want to breathe in, wearing a mask, a higher level of attentiveness, and a lot of set up and clean up…not to mention baking your beads and sealing them.

Level: Intermediate to Advanced, Not Suitable for Children

Note: Read the directions before proceeding! Clean off everything that you touch while handling the raw clay with baby wipes that have some rubbing alcohol in them.

Time: Hands-on time is one to several hours. Actual time from start to finish will be several days to a week, depending on your dipping (into the finish) process. I’d say give it 2 to 6 days, minimum.

Steps

1. Decide on using molds or templates. Although making your own molds from the right materials has its many benefitsI chose to make and use templates out of printer paper because that’s what I did for the original picture, above.

Optional — Making Your Own Molds: If you have the materials and know-how, making your own pendant molds saves you a lot of work once the molds are done, and your work will still be of all your own design. With commercial molds, check if you can use them to make derivative works if you’re selling the pendants. I usually use two-part silicone Amazing Mold Putty or clay-like Polyform Sculpey Mold Maker to make my molds. Between these two commonly found choices, Amazing Mold putty makes it easy to get more shapely figurative pendants out of your molds. (If you’re using your molds for both polymer clays and resin, check this link on Amazing Mold vs. Easy Mold.)

choices

Choices to start with — use molds or cut out your own using templates.

2. Make your templates. Sketch out the shapes you want, perfect them, then cut them out of paper or template material. Or perhaps you size and print free templates from online somewhere. There are many historical Goddess figure types for your inspiration pleasure too. Make sure your final copies aren’t dirty with charcoal, graphite, and the like. I used a fine Sharpie marker to outline mine before cutting. Either way, the bead designs here were around 2″ long. I use small, curved craft scissors or cuticle scissors to cut out the templates. After you’ve made your templates, put them aside in a safe place for the moment. I put mine in a used, clean, dry, transparent prescription bottle.

If you think you might like to reuse your templates for beads or other crafts, you could use a more durable template sheet – Dura Lar is an ideal material for making templates.

3. Choose your clay. If you choose to coat your beads with mica powder, which is quite beautiful, the powders show up best on black or dark clay, the darker the better! As for brands, artist grade clays suitable for these might be Premo, Pardo Jewellry Clay, Fimo Professional, or Fimo Classic. Today, I’m working with 8-ish-year-old Fimo Classic (from before its reformulation and associated temperature change). I keep my polymer clay’s in a controlled environment so the clay was relatively easy to condition despite its age. If you’re in the US, you can probably find Premo or Fimo Clasic in craft stores like Michaels or Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft Store. You’d probably have to order Pardo Jewellry Clay or Fimo Professional from an online source, in most areas. If you find it locally at this time, consider yourself lucky. If you have darker scrap clay, really dark, made from artist grade polymer clays like these, you might be able to use that.

If you don’t want to work with mica powders, then you probably won’t have to seal your beads with Varathane later. You will not get the mica powder surface effects but you will have many polymer clay colors from which to choose.

A Few Notes on Temperature and Polymer Clay — Polymer clays can partially cure if they get over 90 degrees F, so keep them in a cool, dark, dry place or buy them just before use. Never leave raw polymer clay in a hot vehicle or windowsill. Try to avoid ordering your polymer clays during the summer heat since heat can partially cure your clay or make it much harder to condition. Consider where your polymer clay is shipping from and what their weather is like.

4. Create a dedicated, clean work area. Now that you’ve chosen a clay, you’re going to make a clean and clear work area. I use a clay-friendly mat but you can also work on waxed paper. I’d suggest taping either down to a suitable surface that won’t get ruined by masking tape, etc. Why work over a polymer clay friendly mat, ceramic/marble tile, a clean sheet of glass, or waxed paper? You don’t want to get the raw clay residue on your furniture or rug, etc. The raw residue within uncured polymer clay has plasticizers in it, so it can chemically alter the finish on some furniture and other surfaces.

5. Set up to cut, smooth, stamp, and do a surface treatment. You will need:

  • Baby wipes (you will add just a bit of rubbing alcohol to them if they don’t contain alcohol)
  • 91% isopropyl alcohol (rubbing alcohol)
  • Face mask
  • Claying tools and/or appropriately sized metal knitting needles
    • Note: You could do the smoothing and assist design with a knitting needle and an embossing stylus tool but a few other favorite tools can come in handy.
  • X-acto knife
  • Rolling pin (I use a heavy marble one but you can buy rollers specifically for use with polymer clay)
  • Rubber stamps and/or homemade stamps that you can make with scrap clay or pencil erasers
  • Mica powder (Pearl Ex is a popular brand for use on polymer clay) — Optional
  • Small cosmetic brush for applying the mica powder
  • Small cutting mat (the one I use is only used for polymer clay work).
  • Terra cotta saucers of the same size or suitable enclosed cooking dish
  • Water based Varathane — Water Based Varathane Diamond Polyurethane Interior is what older cans said. Newer cans are labeled Varathane Polyurethane Heavy Use Formula Interior Water Based Crystal Clear (Gloss Formula). The gloss formula manufacturer’s number is 20041H and UPC code is is 026748200045
  • If you don’t already have a magnifying lamp, you might consider getting one.

6. Wash your hands and mind what you wear. Wash your hands thoroughly, dry them, and make sure you’re not wearing clothes that shed fibers (a fluffy bathrobe or sweater, for example). Make sure you’re not working near the dryer (too much lint that will end up in your clay) or other things that may create dust or shed fibers/hair. Polymer clay is tacky by nature and can easily collect dirt and lint. It’s like a lint, dust, and fiber magnet.

7. Condition your polymer clay. Take out enough polymer clay to roll out and cut a few beads. A 2 oz. block or two might be more than enough, depending on how much you want to make. You’ll probably roll it out to about 5 mm or a quarter inch thick or so. You condition it by smushing it and rolling it in your hands until it’s pliable.

Conditioning Resources:

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Marble rolling pin for rolling out polymer clay

8. Roll out your polymer clay. You can roll it out to about 5 mm to about 1/4″ thick. If you make it too thick, it may be more difficult to cut without distortion. I use a heavy marble rolling pin for my polymer clay because it makes the job easier. You just have to take into account the weight as you try to roll it to a uniform width. As you roll, turn and flip the clay to create that uniformity. Don’t press down too hard and create too much distortion in any one area. Easy does it and have patience.

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Cutting stage for polymer clay Goddess beads.

9. Lay out the template(s) and cut. You will not cut through at once. That creates too much distortion. Go around once with a more superficial, straight up and down, tentative cutting line, while making sure not to push in or cut the template. Go around several more times, again cutting straight up and down, as opposed to cutting sideways, at a slant. Cut the outer lines first, starting from the top of the figure to the bottom. Once the outer cutting is done, use the same careful cutting technique to make any inside cuts, like around the head and inside of the arms, for example. You may have to help the inside cuts along with curved cuticle scissors or fine, curved craft scissors. Just keep in mind not to rip, slice through, or distort the bead. This is not a job for the heavy-handed.

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Smoothing stage for polymer clay Goddess beads

10. Smooth. Personally, I find it useful to work under a magnifying lamp at this point, much of the time. You will use your fingers and tools to round the cookie cutter type of edges you created. This part will take more hands-on time than your other steps, most likely. A lot more. Maintain a light-handed touch and hold the clay in such a way that you avoid too much distortion. (Even so, the connected “arms” in a design like this will lengthen slightly as you smooth, creating just a little more space around the head. This is why you don’t want a design that starts with much longer arms, unless that’s the look you really want.) You will bend your figure a bit as you work on it, so periodically take out the template and line it up again. Smooth the outer edges, kind of beveling (rounding) them. Smooth your inner surfaces and edges likewise. Keep checking your template against your work and adjust your figure accordingly.  This is definitely not for the heavy-handed, those who have problems with mindfulness, or the impatient.

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Stamping stage for polymer clay Goddess beads

11. Stamp. You can create your own stamps using polymer clay and/or molding materials or use commercial ones. Commercial stamps have the same consideration — check to see if you can make derivative works if you plan to sell the beads you make with them. A popular pattern for Goddess bead design is the simple spiral. You can use molds that indent designs or that create raised ones. Expect to smooth out any unwanted ridges the edge of the stamp might create and touch things up.

Stamp and Texture Sheet Resources:

Optional: Bead Holes. Chill your beads in the freezer for 15 minutes and gently use a sewing needle, pin, or bead hole wires made for polymer clay to create your bead holes. Run your bead hole tool into the hole from both directions while avoiding distortions that cannot be fixed. Create your bead holes before you apply mica powders and don’t clump the mica powder into the bead holes.

12. Add breasts if you want. Create two equal sized balls and lightly press onto the body of the bead without distorting them. You want to press hard enough that they stay attached though. These are sometimes best added after stamping but can often be added before you stamp on a design. Just be careful not to smush them when stamping on the design if you add a bosom first.

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Mica powder (Pearl Ex) surface treatment stage for polymer clay Goddess beads

13. Mica powder (optional). Wear a face mask to avoid breathing in the mica powders. Personally, I find it best to work under a standing magnifying lamp at this point. You can apply mica powders to small designs with the head and side of the pointy top of a simple flat head sewing pin. Dip the pin lightly in the mica powder, perhaps lightly tap off the excess, and apply while avoiding dropping clumps of mica powder onto the clay. For coating the rest of the bead’s surface with Pearl Ex mica powder, use a small cosmetic brush, one small enough and soft enough for the task. Use the brush only for this type of task and keep it with your mica powders in a dust free container. I often will get the mica powder off the inside of the lid and then apply it to the bead, perhaps occasionally adding a tiny bit to the lid in order to reload the brush. Lightly but thoroughly brush it on your bead. You will not want the brush so loaded with mica powder that it’s coming off all over the place as you apply it to the bead. You want to load it with just enough in order to gently apply it to the surface. You don’t want excess mica powder that’s loose on the surface of your bead. Easy does it. A little goes a long way.

Tutorial on https://karenascofield.wordpress.com

Mica powders were applied over paper towel and now the bead is ready to cure

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Two terra cotta saucers from the garden section are used to create a chamber for baking polymer clay beads.

14. Now that your bead is coated with the mica powders, place it on it’s final baking surface, wipe your hands with a wet wipe containing a bit of rubbing alcohol, and thoroughly wash your hands. Many people use a glossy ceramic tile inside disposable aluminum cooking pans with good results. (For this particular purpose, I used two terra cotta saucers of the same size and invert one over the other to create an enclosed baking container. It’s just one enclosed baking container possible). Check your bead alignment and arm placement against the template once again.

Why make a point of cleaning your hands before leaving my work area and doing anything else? I make a point to mention cleaning one’s hands at this point out of personal experience — I hadn’t washed my hands, set the oven temperature, and later found that raw plasticizers left on my hands from handling uncured polymer clay had melted off the toaster oven dial numbers. Therefore, I clean my hands in this manner before leaving the studio or touching anything else. I’d hate to imagine what other dials and number and letter pads I could damage, or furniture finishes, etc.

Add rubbing alcohol to your wipes — My baby wipes that I keep in the studio initially didn’t contain alcohol, most brands don’t these days, so I added some by simply dousing them lightly, the whole batch in their container, with rubbing alcohol. These wipes are then not used outside of the studio, but in the studio, they are great for cleaning my tools, my hands, and my work station.

15. Follow the clay manufacturer’s directions for baking the clay. You’ll have to know how thick the thickest part of the bead is and what temperature the package says to bake the clay at — these will tell you have long and how hot to bake your bead . You will use an independent oven thermometer or two; Sculpey sells them for clayers. Oven temps, either regular ovens or toaster ovens, usually spike from time to time. Baking in enlcosed baking containers helps avoid burning that can occur during the temperature spikes.)

16. Cool the bead before handling. This so you don’t burn yourself or mar the clay. Clays are often softer when hot out of the oven than they are after they’ve cooled.

17. Seal — Brush on thin layers, or dip, but don’t spray (probably optional if you didn’t use mica powders). Why seal? If you don’t seal a bead coated with mica powders, it will dull and the mica powders may wear of on your skin and clothes. Varathane is low odor, cleans up with soap and water and is pretty durable. To prepare, you will stir the Varathane slowly, let it settle for an hour or so with the lid on, then put some in a smaller container that has a good lid. Leave enough space because you’re going to thin it a bit with water. Stir slowly and carefully to avoid air bubbles. Apply the Varathane, let it dry a couple of days, apply again, let dry, apply again, let dry. It’s better to do several thin coats than one or two thick ones. Read the label for drying times. Avoid build up of the Varathane at the bottom of the bead but don’t scrape the bead while getting excess off. Some people scrape off the varathane without actually touching the bead and some spin the bead (without dropping it) to get the excess off. Refer to the dipping tutorial and other Varathane pages, below, if you have any questions. You may find it easier to brush it on rather an dip, just be careful to work on a mixed media sheet that wipes clean easily or a glossy, light colored or white, ceramic tile (you can wipe and/or scrape it clean with a razor blade).

Varathane is chosen because it bonds best with the polymer clay and works best with the mica powders. It’ll be water-resistant but not waterproof. If your bead design doesn’t have bead holes, you can hang the bead by a thread and dip. The thread can be carefully cut away once the bead is completely dry — cut the thread flush with the bead’s surface without knicking the finish. You can hang your bead(s) to dry with the same thread. If you have bead hole, you can put a beading wire, thread or perhaps even a toothpick through and dip. I used a tie rack to hang my beads to dry because that’s what I had.

Varathane (Sealant) Resources:

Resource FYI: About Spray Sealants on Polymer Clay

Finished! — It’s not the best picture as it was taken at night. I usually photograph my beads in direct daylight on sunny days when it’s not too early or too late (yet almost never between mid morning and early afternoon). I was going to keep the bead all blue, but I decided to color the raised stamped areas with Viva Decor Precious Metal Color after the bead was baked . That’s another alternative.

Polymer Clay Goddess Bead Tutorial by Karen A. Scofield

Created for Goddess Bead Tutorial by Karen A. Scofield

Jewelry Design Considerations

Today, I created a bead that I will attach to a necklace using a jewelry bail. That’s why this one didn’t need bead holes. If your bead and jewelry design called for bead holes, then you have to decide which direction the bead hole(s) will run.

Labor-Intensive and Not for KIds

From designing and then conditioning clay to the last dip in the sealant, each bead can take from about 1 to 2 or more hours of hands-on time to create. You’ll be working with sharp instruments, powders you don’t want to breathe in, the oven, and Varathane. The constant mindfulness present while successfully creating something like this while avoiding rips and distortions is probably a good example of why artists and other creatives tend to have more gray matter. For all the above reasons, I’d say this is a tutorial for adults and perhaps some more mature teens that have very good hand-eye coordination.

Jan. 15, 2015 Update…Possibilities

This time I used molds I made based on prototypes I made using the above method. They were coated with Aztec Gold Pearl Ex mica powder, except for one blue bead. I will yet add colored resin with glitter/mica inclusion and other touches, including finally sealing them in water based Varathane Interior, gloss. In the stars, such as in the bead on the right, below, I could use different chakra colors — or whatever else strikes my fancy.

2

2″ Tall Polymer Clay Goddess Beads, by Karen A. Scofield.

Karen A. Scofield's Polymer Clay Goddess Beads

Polymer clay Goddess beads made by Karen A. Scofield. Prototype beads were made by the artist who then created silicone molds…

Video Showing the Beads

Video About Solving a Problem With Baking the Pardo Jewellry Clay Used in These Beads

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art doll sculpting parts stand

Video: Adjustable Art Doll Sculpting Stand & Oven Cover

Many art doll artists build up and sculpt their polymer clay doll parts over wooden dowels. My recent youtube video shows that I can place these dowels in my stand and tilt the whole thing so that the art doll heads or other parts tilt up toward me as I work. I can just as easily return the stand to level position. The clay stand can go from work table to oven and has so far prevented burning of polymer clay parts during tests. It also evens out the temperature. Even good ovens momentarily spike in temperature, from what I understand, so it’s wonderful if you can find something that holds temperatures even within it, despite expected oven fluctuations.

I made my stand out of clay using what I had, which was Amaco Air Dry Modeling Clay, but the one shown in the Creager Studios instructional DVDs was made out if wood. Since I made this with a natural air dry clay, and not a more durable kiln-cured clay, I coated it with Kato Liquid Polyclay and cured it. If I hadn’t done that, the stand could leave clay dust and crumbles all over while manipulating it. Problem solved. The Kato Liquid Polyclay was chosen because it cures at a higher temperature than the polymer clays I chose for creating my art dolls. This means I don’t have to worry about the Kato Liquid Polyclay burning.

I guess I’m the oddball that makes a stand like this before really getting into sculpting polymer clay art dolls, I’m still a beginner, but I like figuring things out ahead of time in order to hopefully avoid some of the most common problems — how to comfortably work with your clay yet keep it as clean as possible, how to avoid marring it when working on it or between sculpting sessions, and how to cure it properly without burning or darkening the clay. Yeah.

Karen A. Scofield Learning with Creager Studios Workshop DVD. Progress shot. KarenAScofield

WIP: Sculpting with Creager Studio Workshops Sculpting the Head Volume 1

2015_01_11and12_SculptingArtDollsAgain 001

Note: This page will show more as my work progresses.

The above shows my progress during the first two days. I have to add the lips, eyes, flesh it out more, shape it more, add details and then bake it.

Where to buy the Creager Workshop DVDs: http://www.creagers.com/. I have all three and they’re really helping me. I love them.

Rusty and a Beginner — I was a beginner when I started sculpting art dolls in 2005 but managed to get juried into an art gallery with assemblage type dolls. I’m diving in again after a years-long hiatus and this time, I want to do far more pure sculpting. I tried one head to toe body pure sculpt and then stopped. It’s been years since. I have hours and hours of practice ahead of me — I both look forward to it and dread the awkward stage. This time I hope to stick with it.

So … I cracked open my Creager DVD on sculpting heads and this time I’m going to keep on trying.

Right away, I came across numerous technical problems.

Clay — Ooops. I chose a clay blend because I was in love with it after some pretty decent results in one of the softest clay — Sculpey UltraLIght. Like straight Sculpey Ultralight, however, my Super Sculpey-Sculpey Ultralight clay mix doesn’t blend or smooth well. After this practice head, I’ll switch to working with more traditional art doll clays. They have varying degrees of softness and firmness but will blend and smooth well.

Unfortunate Combination of Store Practices and Super Sculpey Packaging  — Super Sculpey boxes aren’t sealed in a protective wrap, the boxes don’t close tightly, people often pinch off a piece or mar the clay, and stores invariably place Super Sculpey on bottom shelves where they’ll be exposed to the most dirt, dust, and lint. It’s not one of the more popular clays among hobbyists, so boxes often sit on the shelves longer than other clays, thus compounding the problem. Consequently the clay is often dirty before you even get it home and you can’t simply wash off the lint. I could shave off the sides and put them in a scrap clay container, I suppose.

Brushes That Stain Clay — Jodi Creager said to use artist brushes…any small enough to smooth the clay. Not her fault, Murphy’s Law and all, but Daler Rowney Simply Brown Nylon Brushes leave their bristle color on my clay. Only the brown ones do that so far. I’ll look for other brushes, white and/or natural bristle ones. I guess I should test even brushes on polymer clay first. Test, test, test. Lots of testing with everything.

Lint — I’m wearing light colored cotton with a white lab coat over it. No dark fibrous sweaters or towels are allowed in the studio. Pets are not allowed either. I cleaned my station for two days with wet wipes and even rubbed my claying mat with a wad of clay to pick up the lint and I’m still finding dark fibers of several different colors in the once clean clay after working it yesterday and today. Argh!

Jan. 15, 2015

Learning to Pure Sculpt More with Creager Studio Workshops "Sculpting the  Head" Volme 1 DVD

Learning to Pure Sculpt More with Creager Studio Workshops “Sculpting the Head” Volme 1 DVD, third day…

Jan. 19, 2015

Learning to sculpt polymer clay art doll heads with a Creager Studios Workshop DVD

Learning to sculpt polymer clay art doll heads with a Creager Studios Workshop DVD

I’ve been making progress every day or other day, the latest involving fine-tuned shaping and texturing, but as soon as I added rudimentary ears and and started to correct the jaw, I saw a bunch of things I want to change. I need to add more to the top of the head, add more flesh to outer upper eyelid to reflect age, redo and lower ears, redo chin, add a bit to the upper lip right under the nose thus changing the bottom of the nostrils and nares slightly. For starters. Then I have to do the neck and continue with the rest of the body. I’ll probably have to do more texturing and even further fine-tuned shaping. Here’s a video that shows him from different angles at this stage, just in case WIPs (Works in Progress) interest you. For me, they’re a good record that I can organize into one ongoing post.

Progress Jan. 26, 2015.

Learning with Creager Studios Workshop DVD. Progress shot. KarenAScofield

Learning how to sculpt with more of an additive process with Creager Studio Worshops “Sculpting the Head” Volume 1. Progress Jan. 26, 2015.

I have to revisit the entire list of everything I’m working on because I didn’t make nearly the progress I wanted. Perhaps it’s better to make slow, small changes than to make such mistake that I don’t know how to save the work from that point.

Pinterest Board: Art Dolls and Spirit Dolls.

It includes definitions and some of the finer figurative art doll examples, photos of the artists, some videos, and the occasional tutorial. Enjoy.

Related Pinterest Boards

I finally separated finished art dolls from all the rest that might go into making them. It’s not all the usual, so you may want to check these boards out.

Kraft-tex, Testing different mediums on

Review of Kraft-tex with Pictures, Tips, and Notes

What This Page Is and Isn’t

This page is not designed to cover all tips, techniques, needles sizes and such and cannot take the place of Kraft-tex books, videos, workshops, or project downloads. I show and discuss using an array of common art products on Kraft-tex, link to an ever-growing Pinterest board loaded with examples, include basic tips, and illuminate some basic starter information. That’s it.

Kraft-tex is a durable cloth-paper hybrid product and how you prepare it before using it can make a huge difference, something evident on my Kraft-tex Pinterest board.

What Does it Feel Like?

Right off the roll or bolt, it’s heavier than 140 lb. watercolor paper or cardstock but it doesn’t feel exactly like really heavyweight paper either. It’s a hybrid product initially created as a synthetic leather substitute, doesn’t need interfacing and basically you have two choices — make it supple like fabric/leather or keep it stiffer like really thick art paper.

The difference begins in preparation. Washing it makes it feel more like supple leather…more on that process in a moment. If you want to keep it paper-like, stiff, and flat, it can be ironed even on the highest setting. Some examples of projects that use flat unwashed Kraft-tex are folders, book covers, or envelopes. Also, using Kraft-tex with various templates meant for cardboard gift boxes, etc., is not an unknown. There are many free templates for this on the Internet.

 The Official Kraft-tex Introduction: “Wait until you get your hands on this rugged paper that looks, feels, and wears like leather, but sews, cuts, and washes just like fabric. kraft•tex is supple, yet strong enough to use for projects that get tough wear. Use it to bring an exciting new texture to your craft-sewing projects, mixed-media arts, and bookmaking. Durable fiber-based texture softens and crinkles with handling and washing.” Source: http://www.ctpub.com/kraft-tex

Tips

Why tips? Because it’s a hybrid product, it’s a bit mysterious at first but Kraft-tex can offer frugality, artistic freedom, and the ability to make custom projects for your digital dohickies, kitchen stuff, car kits, sewing room necessities, or different sets of tools. Basic Kraft-tex tips can encourage crafters/artists and fire up some unimpeded excitement with up front initial information, as opposed to eking what they need to know out of numerous web pages, videos, and books. Without somebasic tips and does-this-work-with-that information, which is what this page is largely about, the learning curve can be too drawn out and frustrating some. (Kraft-tex projects, workshops, or patterns available for purchase out there will still have their place/value, I’m sure.)

Tip: Watch Out for Lint, Be Careful of What You’re Wearing — Often, artists don’t realize that their clothes shed fibers until they’re working in the studio. For example, wearing my fluffy navy blue bathrobe while working on white Kraft-tex left it covered with dark fibers.

Tip: All needles and Kraft-tex are permanent. all needle holes are permanent on Kraft-tex. This will affect what size needles you choose, how you backstitch, how you double stitch, and stitch length. Choose a longer sitch length than usual. You may use hand sewing needles, embroidery needles, or an 80/12 sharp sewing machine needle. You will not pin your pattern pieces together before sewing, for obvious reasons, you may have to clip them in places instead. One can also play with decorative perforation.

Tip: Needle sizes and scissor sharpening? Use a hand, sewing machine, or embroidery needle that’s strong enough but no larger.  Also, Kraft-tex dulls scissors and sewing machine needles more rapidly so sharpen your scissors frequently enough and replace sewing machine needles if they get too dull. If you really get into Kraft-tex, you may want to use dedicated sewing machine needles (meaning you don’t use those needles for other stuff).

Tip: Do decorative stitching before you sew  your project.

Tip: One can dye it an array of colors using Rit dye.

Tip: One can emboss Kraft-tex. Example: https://youtu.be/eUDQeFs117I

Tip: Cut our pattern pieces before pre-washing, if you’re pre-washing your Kraft-tex.

Tip: To fold, lightly score and then fold with the bone folder. This will make sure it folds along the intended line nice and neat instead of creasing and creating an imprecise messy fold. You can see the process here.

  • To score, lightly draw the “blade” edge of a bone folder down along the intended line, then fold by running the flat side of your bone folder along the intended folding line.
  • If you don’t have a bone folder, the rounded handle of a clean butter knife may be substituted.
  • If you don’t have a bone folder, draw the blunt blade of the butter knife down the line where you want to fold, then carefully fold over with the blunt butter knife handle.

Tip: Test products you’re using on a scrap piece as you go.

Tip: It can be sewn using your sewing machine, with a heavy-duty sewing machine needle, just keep in mind that all holes from pins and needles are permanent.  Therefore, backstitch slightly to the side to secure stitching — don’t go back-and-forth over the same stitching line as  you normally would when backstitching or you’ll create a hole. For the same reason, if you want to double stitch, avoid double stitching over the exact same line but stitch slightly to the side of the first stitching line instead.

Your Basic Preparation Options

To Keep it Like Paper — Don’t Wash It — If you want to keep it stiff and flat like paper or cardstock, then don’t wash it before using Kraft-tex. It wipes clean pretty well as it’s water resistant. Unwashed, it could be used as a fine art surface (avoid creasing it then) or to make wallets, book covers, boxes, bag straps, etc.

Testing it as a fine art surface, It was placed either on a huge clip board or on my magnetic board. (I have a huge magnetic board and plastic/enamel-coatef super magnets so that I can work on Kraft-tex at my standing easel). So far, no tape that I’ve used  to secure it to the  clipboard has ripped or otherwise damaged the Kraft-tex. Whether different tapes can leave an undesirable tackiness or residue is possibly an issue with some techniques and/or art products? If in doubt, test first.

Handmade Blank Canvas Board Art Journal, by Karen. A. Scofield. Bound with a beaded coptic stitch.

Handmade Blank Canvas Board Art Journal, by Karen. A. Scofield. Bound with a beaded coptic stitch. I covered the back MDF board cover with Kraft-tex and decorated that too.

To Use it Both like Kind of Like Paper and Very Much Like a Fabric — Wash It — If you want to use it like a paper-cloth or a replacement for leather, then wash it before sewing it. If you wash it after creating your item, its resulting texture may not be as even. If  you want to create a very soft fine leather-like texture, specifically, then use my method, below.  This video discusses a different wash-and-crumple method than the following steps, and you can see it produced a faux leather texture that’s not as soft. A lot of people simply wash and dry their Kraft-tex on hot three times.

  1. Cut — Cut out enough for your project or cut out the pattern pieces in advance, in the first place.
  2. Container — Find a basin or cooking container that will hold your material. Remember, it’ll be kind of stiff when it first goes in to soak.
  3. Boiling Water Soak — Boil enough water, put it in your container, keeping all safety precautions in mind, and soak your Kraft-tex in that water for 5 minutes.
  4. Crumble It Up — Wearing protective, thick rubber gloves and using tongs, remove your Kraft-tex and crumble it into a ball, trying to crumble it as evenly as possible into a ball. Let it sit several minutes.
  5. Flatten — Lay it flat.
  6. Repeat — Now do steps 3 through 5 two more times — you will soak it in boiling water 5 minutes, crumple it in a ball, and lay it flat — you will do all that three times total.
  7. Dryer — As a final step, you can put it in the dryer on any setting, yes, including the hottest. In fact, some prefer the hotest dryer setting as the last step in turning Kraft-tex into a supple, sewable paper-cloth state.

Art Products One Can Use on White Kraft-tex, and Some to Use on Black Kraft-tex

I’m testing an array of art products on white Kraft-tex. Paints, markers, and pens have to be truly opaque for you to see them on black Kraft-tex … unless you’re talking about irridescent Shiva Paintstiks or interference acrylic paints and powders because those can show well on black art papers and black Kraft-tex.

Opacity and Absorption Considerations

Test even products that say they’re opaque — they may be varying degrees of opacity from brand to brand, colors may vary in opacity by nature, and some marker “juice’ may soak into substrates and dissapear some or alot while others will do fine. So test the color range or the colors you’re going to use. Also, keep in mind that washability is a consideration for some uses but not others. Some products are not washable but that may or not be a consideration for your project for various reasons. For example, if I spray a sealant on what I did and then coat it with a quality acrylic medium, it may not be a problem for the type and amount of wear my finished project might see in its lifetime. If my item is going up on a wall and isn’t going to be around outside or laid on tabletops were people might spill their drinks or other fluids, it may not be a problem that what I drew or painted on is not washable or might ruin if exposed to moisture. It all depends. Know your products and think it through before you create your items or works of art.

  • Watercolors and Watercolor Pencils — Trying these on the white Kraft-tex, I found out they can be used wet, in dry-brushing, and in the form of watercolor pencil. One can lift colors back off of Kraft-tex and you’ll have to mind which are your staining colors, just as you would on any watercolor surface that allows lifting (removing some color). I have not tried a wide variety of wet watercolor techniques on this surface. Dry watercolor pencils, especially the lighter colors may show up on black Kraft-tex, at least my Cretacolor AquaMonoliths sure did, but test your brand first if you really want to know.
  • Modge Podge Fabric — Works but it’s not my favorite and compared to acrylic mat mediums, it looks plasticky and can easily look gloppy if you’re not careful.
  • Ink Jet Print It — More information being sought on that at the moment.
  • Water-soluble Oil Pastels — I tried both Caran d’Ache Neocolor II and Cretacolor AquaStics (which are generally more lightfast).  Both brands work well on this surface and, like watercolor, can be lifted off. Both brands of water-soluble oil pastels have staining colors, just as artist grade watercolors do. Both can be fixed to Kraft-tex. Here’s how I did that.
    • Apply your water-soluble oil pastels. Color, wet, blend, etc., just like you can with these products on other papers.
    • Let dry.
    • Krylon Workable Fixative — See manufacturer’s directions and then spray with Krylon Workable Fixative and let dry. Don’t spray until you saturate the surface. Just give it a decent layer.
    • More Fixative — Spray two more layers of Krylon Workable Fixative, letting each application dry. Let the last layer dry completely. It wouldn’t hurt to let it dry for a couple of hours or overnight.
    • Acrylic Matte Medium — Finally, brush a light coat of acrylic mat medium over your fixed water-soluble pastels. (Liquitex Matte Medium is more matte than Golden’s, in Kraft-tex.) Let dry.
      • Why Three Layers of Krylon Workable Fixative? — If you try to get away with only one layer of Krylon Workable Fixative, expect colors to bleed (especially some of the blues and greens in both brands). They bleed less with two layers of Krylon Workable Fixative using this method. I didn’t see any bleeding with three layers of Krylon Workable Fixative using this method. Please test whatever you’re doing with water-soluble oil pastels, however.
  • TAP (Transfer Artist Paper) — Follow manufacturer’s directions. Before using, consider if you’ll be using Kraft-tex like a stiff paper or like a supple fabric and pre-treat it accordingly, or not.  E.g., the Be Peace Bag shown here.
  • Graphite Pencils — I tried the HB pencil from my Cretacolor set so far. These work well on white Kraft-tex, you can smudge and blend them, but they do not erase from Kraft-tex, not even if you use several erasers. I have not tried all the B pencils and I have not tried all brands. As always, test first. If you make heavy marks, you’re not going to be able to erase completely. If you make like marks and erase with a regular eraser and then also a kneadable erasure, you may be able to remove most of your pencil work.
  • Sketching Pencils (sanguine, dark brown, black and white) — These work well on white Kraft-tex, you can smudge and blend them, but they do not erase from Kraft-tex, not even if you use several erasers. I have not tried all the brands. As always, test first.
  • Rubber Stamps — They work well on it. Of course some ink pads are better than others, same as on other surfaces. Some are archival and water-resistant, others are very much not.
  • Neopaque (opaque fabric paint) — Works well on different colors of Kraft-tex.
  • Sakura Micron Archival Ink Pens — Work well on white Kraft-tex. I could not wet or scrub them off.
  • Sakura Gelly Roll Pens — This brand of gel pen doesn’t run or bleed if they get wet, after they dry. The Moonlight ones are opaque and can be used on white or even black Kraft-tex.
    • Rule: If your gel pens or other pens don’t say water-resistant, they probably aren’t. If they don’t say they can write on dark surfaces, they probably won’t show up well on black.
  • Crayola Crayons — These work particularly well on white Kraft-tex, you can get a solid coverage, and heating the crayons up on its surface is a possibility.
  • Conte Crayons — Work well on white Kraft-tex but don’t erase from it even if you use several different types of erasers.
  • Colored Pencils — These work very well on Kraft-tex but don’t expect them to erase.
  • Uni-Posca Paint Pens (Markers)  — These fabulously opaque water-based paint pens work very well on Kraft-tex, even black Kraft-tex but you have to work fast to blend these markers. Heat setting alone may not be enough to set them, if the item you’re making might meet up with moisture. I’ll do more testing as to how to set them on this surface and will update this page with my findings.
  • Acrylic Paints – Acrylic  paints work very well on this surface, using a variety of brushes and methods. If you’re making a wearable, use a fabric medium with your acrylic paints. Craft paints lines often have a fabric medium they sell too. Golden Acrylic Paints has GAC 900, and Liquitex also sells a fabric medium.
  • Acrylic Inks — Same. They work very well on this surface.
  • Alcohol Inks — Adirondack Alcohol Ink works very well on this surface but spreads so well that you shouldn’t expect to make clean, tight lines with it. They may show all the way through to the other side. A lot.
  • Rit DyeWorks well on Kraft-tex. Pre-cut your pieces as the dye often doesn’t penetrate all the way through, though straight Rit dye did.
  • Shiva PaintstiksWork well on Kraft-tex and heat set. The irridescent ones work well using the rubbing technique on black Kraft-tex. Regular ones work too.
  • Various Fabric Paints — All the brands of fabric paint and iron-on fabric crayons have worked exceedingly well on this white Kraft-tex surface. I’ll do tests to see how they take washing later. Rule: If your fabric paints or markers don’t say they work well both on light and dark surfaces, they’re probably not opaque enough to work on black Kraft-tex.
  • Gessoes — I’m working with modern gessoes, as opposed to rabit glue gesso. Gessoes work well on Kraft-tex though one I tested, Martin F. Weber Prima Gesso, can wash out a bit while others don’t.  Some gessoes are more mat than others, some provide almost paper like textures, and others can create peaks and textures. Some are even glossy looking. Know your gessoes, know your projects, know your likes, and use the best gesso for your needs and preferences. I did not find a need to use gesso on Kraft-tex. However, one could use colored gessoes or white gesso on different colors of Kraft-tex for various effects.
  • Elmer’s Painters (paint markers) — I tested the oil-based kind. They have varying degrees of opacity but work very well on white. On black Kraft-tex, however, they were a bit of a dissapointment because they soaked right into it and seemed to seemed to dissapear somewhat, some colors more than others. They generally don’t show up well enough to my satisfaction. I have not tested them by washing.
  • Various threads, embroidery threads, and various glues can be used on Kraft-tex. Check Glue This to That and other sites for which glues may be most appropriate for your particular project.
  • Polymer Clays? Since Kraft-tex can tolerate heat, polymer clays cure with heat, I will experiment with polymer clay and liquid polymer clay on Kraft-tex.
  • Wood Burning Tips — First check if that could create toxic fumes. It doesn’t sound like a very good or necessary technqiue on this material. I wouldn’t bother trying.

Do the Above Products Show Through to the Other Side?

After testing many products on my white Kraft-tex, I flipped it over. Only some products show through just a tiny bit, like a shadowy hint that something must be on the other side, but none of them bled through…except for two — Rit Dye and the alcohol ink. This means that I can use the other side, the yet all white side, for other work and I may or may not want to apply a layer or two of artist quality acrylic gesso to it first when I do so.

Testing Opacity of Products on Black Kraft-tex

Watercolor Pencils and Elmer's Painters on black Kraft-tex.

Watercolor Pencils and Elmer’s Painters on black Kraft-tex.

Testing water-soluble oil pastels on black Kraft-tex.

Top: Testing water-soluble oil pastels on black Kraft-tex. Middle: Testing Elmer’s Painters. Bottom: Testing Mungyo Gallery Artist Soft Oil Pastels.

Colored Pencil on Black Kraft-tex.

Colored Pencil on Black Kraft-tex. Lighter colors show better.

Uni-Posca pens (AKA Posca markers) on black Kraft-tex.

Uni-Posca pens (AKA Posca markers) on black Kraft-tex. Very opaque.

Dimensional fabric paint on black Kraft-tex

Dimensional fabric paint on black Kraft-tex. Varying opacity.

Sakura Gelly Roll: Moonlight set. On black Kraft-tex.

Sakura Gelly Roll: Moonlight set. On black Kraft-tex. Very opaque, bold, and water resistant.

Irridescent Shiva Painstik on black Kraft-tex.

Irridescent Shiva Painstik on black Kraft-tex. They show up extremely well and are heat set.

Sakura Gelly Roll Moonlight pens, Mungyo Artist Soft Oil Pastels, Uni-Posca paint pens , and only some fabric paints show very boldly when applied to black Kraft-tex. Some colors of watercolor pencil (Cretacolor’s AquaMonolith) and colored pencil show very well to rather decently. Test first. Generally Best Performers: Sakura Gelly Roll Moonlight pens, Neopaque paints, the shimmery kind of Shiva Paintstiks Uni-Posca paint pens would be fabulous for some projects but not others (it depends what you’re project is used for, subjected to). Sakura Gelly Roll Moonlight pens don’t have to be heat set or covered with an acrylic matt medium or anything like that — they are very water resistant and dry relatively fast. Mungyo Artist Soft Oil Pastels can not be heat set or sealed using an acrylic matt medium. They never cure and remain very to somewhat smudgeable. It remains to be seen whether any spray sealant would be suitable enough to allow these oil pastels to be used on wearables or anythign that might see some wear and tear. They are between student and artist grade quality (some colors are fugative). I have to test how Uni-Posca paint pens would stand moisture and/or wear. If needed, I’ll experiment with different says to fix these so they can be used for wearables or items that may be handled frequently enough. The watersoluble oil pastels showed better if I wetted the Kraft-tex and then applied one to numerous times. They can be fixed in the manner described earlier on this page. More testing to follow…

Upcoming

  • Washability — Always test washability of various artwork on the Kraft-tex. The Kraft-tex itself is very washable.
  • Printing on Kraft-tex — I will test clear Golden Digital Grounds on white Kraft-tex. I have that already and am unsure if I want to by TAP (transfer artists paper) too.
  • Testing Opacity on Black Kraft-tex — More testing!